Empty shops: Bury is in a ‘strong position’

Post Office, Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds
Post Office, Cornhill, Bury St Edmunds

The street scene in Bury St Edmunds is changing, with new businesses moving in and a landmark building set to be transformed.

COOK is the latest business to announce it is opening in the town, with work under way transforming the former Greenwoods store at the top of St John’s Street.

The shop, which will sell frozen ready meals prepared by hand at its kitchens, should be open by the end of March.

John Wordsworth, of COOK, said: “We are excited to be opening in Bury. Opening a new shop is a big deal because, for us, an important part of having a shop is being part of a community.”

Meanwhile, St Edmundsbury Borough Council has appointed architects Donald Insall Associates to lead the refurbishment and extension of the former Crown Post Office, on Cornhill.

The council has asked the architects to develop proposals that keep the historic Victorian front.

Cllr Alaric Pugh said: “We will not simply be investing to gain the maximum financial return, but to deliver social and economic improvements to the area. We are aiming for some very real improvements to the look and feel of Market Thoroughfare.”

Elsewhere in the town the former Palmers fashion store is empty following its closure; Hawkin’s Bazaar has finished trading on Cornhill after the festive season; Bohm&Bee and BetFred remain empty; East has gone into administration – its Buttermarket shop continues to trade – while Argos is moving from the Buttermarket into Sainsbury’s from February 28.

But the outlook is positive, according to Business Improvement District (BID) organisation Our Bury St Edmunds.

Mike Kirkham, business support and marketing officer, said: “It is sad when you see a business close. We work very closely with them and they put a lot of time and effort into what they do, so you want them to succeed.

“But Bury is a great place to do business and we still feel we are in a strong market position.”

Mike said the national average for vacant units was 9.3 per cent, while Bury was running at 4.6 per cent in January.

“But we are not complacent,” he said. “We don’t want to see empty shops, as we would rather see them filled and businesses flourishing.”

He added positive signs included Fine and Country moving to the former Michael K shop in St John’s Street, and Chelmer Fine Art opening a gallery in the Traverse.

The former Smith’s Row art gallery, in the Market Cross, has been vacant since 2015, however owner St Edmundsbury Borough Council said this week it was in the final stages of agreeing a new tenancy.